Rely on newspapers for property research at your peril

I don’t usually watch ABC TV’s Media Watch show but on Monday night I was pleased to have flicked over at just the right time. Newspapers love criticising financial planners in their usual sensationalised way. One Media Watch story uncovered a dirty little secret about newspapers and how they appear to be so influenced by who pays their bills – the real estate advertisers.

So when you are investing in real estate don’t trust or rely upon property information published by newspapers. It very well could be only part of the full story – the part favourable to agents and developers. Broaden and deepen your research using other information sources.

Watch or read the full Media Watch story here on the ABC website. (5 min video)

Media Watch revealed that The Age newspaper had published an online article critical of real estate agents and their ‘dirty little secrets’. The article received lots of reader comments but was quickly removed after The Age received “a forceful complaint from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria”.

So why would The Age remove such a popular story that was driving people to their website and engaging them in the content? This is what Media Watch revealed:

“Well, perhaps because of another “dirty little secret”: property ads placed by real estate agents are worth around $60 million a year to The Age, we’ve been told. That’s more than a quarter of its total advertising revenue.

So keen is the paper to keep on the good side of the property-wallahs that it takes up to seventy of them on an annual junket – this year’s trip departs to China soon.”

And newspaper journalists and editors think the financial planning industry is corrupted by how some advisers are paid? Sounds like a case of the pot calling the kettle black!

(P.S. I am a fee based planner who rebates any commissions to you.)

Take The Financial Pressure Down

Today is Stress Down Day, to raise funds for Lifeline. As part of their promotion of Stress Down Day Lifeline conducted a Newspoll to discover what was stressing Australians.

The Newspoll found that two thirds of Australians are stressed about money, second only to being stressed about work. Does that include you?

Financially Stressed CoupleThe Lifeline poll reminded me of research published last year by Relationships Australia, which found that financial stress was the second largest contributor to relationship breakdown, affecting 35 percent of relationships.

This may be a stretch, but if we can work together to reduce our financial stress we may be able to lower the divorce rate and bring more joy into everyone’s lives.

Causes of financial stress

I started writing a list of what has caused financial stress among people I’ve met. Most of the causes fell into two broad categories:

  1. Not enough money (to do, buy or retain)
  2. Doing it for the money

In this article I’ll share some tips for reducing your stress caused by “not enough money”. Later, I’ll write about “doing it for the money”, but if you’re keen to learn how to earn money doing what you love then please call me now.

Stress about not enough money

Our stress seems to rise when we don’t have enough money for something that is really important to us. For example:

  • To join our close friends on a big interstate or overseas holiday (maybe to celebrate a milestone birthday)
  • To buy a bigger house when our family has well and truly outgrown the current shoebox
  • To keep our car and house when we lose our job and fall behind in the mortgage repayments

Our stress doesn’t appear to rise when we decide we can’t afford the $2 chocolate bar or $15 movie ticket. I believe that is because those things aren’t really that important to most of us.

Financially related decisions can also stress us, and I believe they fall into this broad category. Our stress level is affected by the materiality of the loss or by the consequence of a wrong decision. If we get the decision wrong it may mean we won’t be able to upgrade our shoebox house when we want to, so then we stress about the decision.

Save for the Significant. Minimise the Insignificant

To reduce your financial stress plan to have enough money for those things that are most important to you. This is a personal thing and is based on your values.

Once you have plans to be able to afford the most important things in your life you can spend the rest of your money on whatever you want, guilt free.

You need to move your thinking from “next pay” to “next year” and then onto “next decade”.

I believe it is through spending too much on daily insignificant things that we end up not having enough for the significant things. This is often because the significant experiences and achievements are lumpy and irregular, so they can sneak up on us.

Bring far away important things into focus

”binoculars”Here’s an exercise that you can do.

Get a blank piece of paper and place it in landscape orientation. Across the middle from left to right draw a thick line. The left represents now; the right represents your passing, say at age 100.

Divide this line representing the remainder of your life into bite size chunks. The length of each chunk is not fixed, just make it meaningful to you. You may like symmetry and therefore make each chunk an even five years. Or each chunk could be of different length representing different life stages you have in mind.

Next fill the rest of the page with all of those achievements and experiences that are really important for you in each of those meaningful chunks of life. For example:

  • Career transitions you’d like to make
  • Places you’d like to see in the world
  • Experiences you’d like to have with your family
  • Time out of the workforce to study, reflect or travel
  • Contributions you’d like to make to your community and world

For inspiration on what is really important reflect on your personal values.

Now implement plans

Implement a clear plan to manage your money so that you achieve and experience what is really important to you. Then you can happily spend the remainder on whatever insignificant pleasures you want, guilt free.

This is how you can achieve what I call financial fulfilment. And this exercise is part of the process that I call Fulfilment Financial Planning. To learn more call me on 1300 669 101. I take clients from all around Australia and would love to hear from you.

Trading in Exchange Traded Funds

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are like traditional managed funds (which you may be familiar with) but they are instead traded on a stock exchange like other company stocks.

For do-it-yourself investors it is handy to know about ETFs and how they work. It is also important to understand how they are different to Listed Investment Companies (LICs).  To learn a little more about how ETFs work I recommend this brief article from Vanguard Investments Australia called “ETFs: Market Making, Spreads and Liquidity“.

Find the right property mentor

One of the messages I teach is to “Do What You Love; Outsource The Rest“. When it comes to direct investment in residential property it can be tricky to implement this due to the presence of too many biased spruikers. Neil Jenman refers to them as “selling machines” in his insightful article, which I recommend you read in full here.

Following the recent drop in real estate prices I have noticed many spruikers coming out again in force promoting their services and properties. If you perceive property to be “cheap” and are tempted into buying now please read Jenman’s article.

One of the valuable insights in Jenman’s article is when he busts the myth that property prices double every seven to ten years:

“In 1890, the average Sydney home price was $1,446 (£723). If property really does double every seven years then, in 2009, the average Sydney home will be worth $189,530,112.”

Neil Jenman has been in the real estate industry for decades and is now also a consumer advocate. Here’s his view on investing through property investment clubs and the like:

“In my opinion, investing in property via a Selling Machine company, which is rapidly becoming the most common way to invest in property, is the worst way to invest in property.”

“…all [investors] have been ripped off because they have paid far too much at the start – and they often pay far too much in holding costs.”

When direct investment in real estate becomes the right strategy to achieve your life goals find the right mentor to help you and ensure they are biased and/or incentivised to achieving your best outcome rather than theirs.

More Money To Pursue Your Passions

thought_leaders-cover250.jpgDo you want to create wealth but your eyes glaze over with number talk?

Would you like ideas to manage your money in a way that doesn’t take much time and doesn’t require you to read the business news every day?

Do you like the idea of outsourcing to a professional but are not sure how?

If so, you should download and read my latest free e-book here.

This version includes a targeted introduction for information entrepreneurs, but the recommendations are equally applicable to most people. Download the e-book for free now.